Authors: Gerald Petievich
THE QUALITY OF THE INFORMANT
COPYRIGHT © 1985 by Gerald
Published in the United States by Arbor House Publishing Company.
This is a work of fiction.
Any similarity to persons living or dead is purely coincidental and exists solely in the reader's mind.
THOUGH IT was early in the day the Castaways Lounge had plenty of customers, mostly men. The walls of the dimly lit bar were decorated with crude glow-in-the-dark paintings of nude women with heavy breasts and luminous pink nipples. There were lots of whispered conversations about money, calls made from the pay phone next to the rest room, sudden departures and returns. There were many bars like it in Hollywood.
sat at a cocktail table with Teddy Mora, a gaunt man with an oatmeal complexion. The meeting had been Mora's idea. He said he had a proposition.
"I've just lined up the best coke connection on the West Coast," Mora said. "They call him the Barber. He's a hair stylist who makes house calls to the movie stars; I mean the big movie stars. He told me they don't even haggle price. They like cocaine and they don't give a shit what it costs."
said. He sipped a Bloody Mary.
"So, his supplier got himself killed on a rip-off day before yesterday," Mora said. "The Barber wants me to take over. The man needs dope for the movie stars. This is the chance of a lifetime."
"Where do I fit in?"
"I need front money for the first load of snow," Mora said. "I'm offering you the chance to go in with me. We'd be partners. The way I have it figured, we can triple our investment with every load."
lit a cigarette. "Dope is not my thing," he said. "I don't even know enough about it to talk price. Besides, every deal has a thousand middlemen involved, and from what I've seen through the years, one of '
is usually a snitch." He frowned. "And I don't like snitches."
"I'm not asking you to get involved in any of the negotiations," Teddy Mora said. "I can handle the nitty-gritty. You're an ink-and-paper man and you always have been. I know that." Mora reached across the table and patted the other man on the arm in a brotherly fashion. "All I'm asking you to do is to come in as a partner; to make an investment. You'll come straight in from the top end of the thing. I'll handle all the details. There is virtually no risk whatsoever. I guarantee that."
A ginger-haired cocktail waitress came to the table. Her nametag read "Linda" and she wore a low-cut top and a short skirt. "Another round?" she said.
nodded. As she emptied the ashtray her leg rubbed against his arm. She smiled at him and walked away. He guessed her age as close to forty, a few years younger than his. "How much are we talking about?"
asked. He rubbed his hands together.
"We need a total of a hundred," Mora said. "My fifty grand is in the bank right now."
"How do I know that?"
had a wry smile.
Teddy Mora reached into his back pocket, pulled out a bankbook, and handed it to
opened the book. There were a dozen or so stamped entries totaling about fifty thousand dollars. He handed the book back.
said. "I come up with fifty ... then what?" He took a drag from the cigarette and picked a piece of tobacco off the end of his tongue.
"Then we deposit the money into a bank account in Ensenada," Mora said. "An hour later we get a telephone call. The load will be stashed in a car in the tourists' parking lot on the U.S. side of the border. We pick up the load and head for L.A., where the Barber is waiting. He pays us up front and we tell him where to find the package. We triple our hundred grand in one day. On our end, it's just you and me. You don't have to meet anyone. There is no way for anything to go wrong. On the Mexican side, the deal is insured by my contacts in Mexico City. When I say 'contacts', I'm talking about people at the highest level. I'm talking about the politicos. It's taken me three years of living in Mexico to set this thing up."
raised his eyebrows in an expression of disbelief. "Why don't you just parlay two deals for fifty each? Why do you need me?"
"Good question," Mora said. "The answer is that I've been talking a big game to the Barber, but now that the connection has finally come together, I'm short of cash. I've got a lot of money tied up in my bar in Ensenada, and I just bought a head shop down the street from here by
Chinese. I'm short of bucks. It's that simple. I'm giving you a shot at the deal because I trust you; we walked the yard together. If you'll come in with me I won't have to worry about talking this thing up to investors and taking the chance of meeting a fed or an informer. But I hope you're realistic enough to see that there are plenty of people who would literally
on this thing."
Mora picked up his drink and took sips, then set the glass down. His hands grasped the edge of the table. He leaned forward and said, "What I'm telling you is that you can fuck around for the rest of your life with funny money and phony checks and you will never be able to score anywhere near what you could with just
solid coke deal. I don't have to sit here and remind you that bogus bills have to be passed
one at a time,
or at best, dealt off in thousand-dollar packages to a parade of sniffling, back-stabbing hypes, one out of two of which is a rat. Even checks ... top limit can't be more than a few grand
you have to stand there in the bank with your face hanging out in order to cash it." Mora pulled his chair closer to the table. "Coke is the
guys who have made enough to walk away from everything for once and for all. And I'm not talking about heavies. I'm talking about twenty-one-year-old red-assed punks sailing around on their yachts in Marina Del Rey right this very minute
They had the guts to get in their car and make one round-trip from here to Tijuana and
back. L.A. is
full of people like that. And what the hell did they have to lose? Minimum, straight probation for the first offense, or maximum, a year in a federal camp with
courts. Was it worth it? You're goddamn fucking
it was. Why? Because there's a market for the shit! The movie stars, TV people, doctors,
they pack their noses every night.
on it! And, old buddy, most important of all, they are willing to
pay out their
Having spit out the last sentence, Teddy Mora sat back in his chair and folded his arms across his chest.
smiled. "I guess after all these years I can trust you not to try to scam me," he said.
Linda the waitress leaned back against her bar station and gazed in his direction. She popped an olive into her mouth and made a funny face.
"I've always made it a point not to cross
," Mora said. "It's because I know you too well. Friend or not, you'd kill me and sit down and eat a sandwich afterward." Mora laughed nervously.
The waitress approached them, and they stopped talking. As she arranged drinks on the table she made a point of giving
an extra peek down the front of her low-cut costume.
paid her. "Keep the change."
"Thank you, Silver Fox," she said with a smile.
As she walked away he noticed that her legs were smooth, no varicose veins.
All in all, a reasonably attractive woman.
Mora's leering eyes followed the waitress back to the bar. "Word is she can suck a tennis ball through a twenty-foot garden hose," he whispered.
Linda set the empty drinks down on the bar. She turned and winked at
. He winked back.
"It'll take me a week or two to come up with my fifty grand,"
said. "I have a
"We've got to move on this deal as soon as we can," Mora said. "The buyer won't wait forever. He's big, I'm telling
. He gets invited to every studio party.
He's the dope pusher to the stars."
THE AIR-CONDITIONING unit in the modest apartment had just clicked off. Its rattle was replaced by the whiz-hum
sound of the nearby Hollywood freeway.
Linda Gleason was in her bedroom, standing in front of a dressing-table mirror. She reached behind for the zipper, tugged at it, and the cocktail waitress outfit split in half. She gave a shrug and it dropped to the floor.
In her underwear she turned and faced the man sitting on the edge of the bed. She knew him only as Paul, and his hair was styled, graying, perhaps dyed. His pants were off. He had the paunch, the fish-skin folds on the
all the Hollywood
, the credit-card
, the confidence men with open-collar Beverly Hills shirts wore like a uniform. To her, it was a telltale mark of prison.
But there were other signs: his generally cautious demeanor; the vague remarks on the telephone; his reluctance to leave messages or to tell her where he lived; the way he parked his car around the corner from the Castaways Lounge rather than in the parking lot. And the missing little finger ... could he have lost it in a prison knife fight?
Ile only thing she liked about the man so far was the way he had come right out and put the question to her. No beating-around-the-bush crap about "going out for breakfast" or "taking a drive to the beach." His had been a simple and straightforward "Let's fuck." (Much to his surprise, she'd said, "Shouldn't we wait until we get to my apartment?") Even as a teenager she had preferred the boys who straight-out pulled her sweater off over those who insisted on the crawling-hands-breath-holding-kissy-face act before getting down to business. Of course she had learned early on that women could not express such thoughts. Richard, her dead husband, had made that point more than once. "It kills the mystery," he'd said.
"Small world," Linda said, unsnapping her bra.
"Like how?" Paul pulled off his undershirt and tossed it on the floor. He had a florist's smile.
"You having known my husband," she said, shrugging off the bra and sitting down at the dressing table. As she ran a brush through her hair she watched him in the mirror. He leaned back against the headboard.
"Richard and I were at Terminal Island together ten years ago," he said. "Maximum security. I heard about what happened to him after we got out. Too bad." He said "too bad" without shaking his head. He pulled off his shorts and tossed them on the floor.
Linda leaned closer to the mirror and applied lipstick. "I told him it would happen if he took money from a loan shark, but he never listened to me ... or to anyone else, for that matter." She made her lips flat and pressed them together.
The man's hand was between his legs. He was pulling on himself. Linda hoped it wouldn't mean one of those marathon efforts to make him come. At least he wasn't drunk, she thought.
Linda Gleason stood up and pulled off her panties. She tossed them at a chair. Crawling onto the bed, she perched on her knees in front of him. "Relax," she said. "Let me do everything." Without hesitation, she took his cock firmly in her hand and pumped gently. "Tell me what you like," she whispered.